School Voucher Bill Defeated In Bipartisan House Vote

In a dramatic win for church-state separation, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted down a school voucher plan aimed at military families.

The measure, proposed by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), would have created a $10 million program for special-needs children from military families to attend religious and other private schools.

The House of Representatives voted 213 to 203 against the proposal, with 35 Republicans joining 178 Democrats in voting no. Some members were concerned about creating a new program at a time when the federal budget is already deeply in the red. Others were concerned about the threat to church-state separation and public education.

Americans United led the opposition to the Hunter scheme, which would have been attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (H.R. 1540). In a letter to the House May 25, AU urged members to oppose the measure because it would funnel taxpayer money to religious schools.

AU added that that vouchers do not improve education and would hurt public schools.

The National Coalition for Public Education (which is chaired by Americans United) and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities also opposed the measure.

“This is a spectacular win for church-state separation,” said Americans United Legislative Director Maggie Garrett. “This vote sends a strong message that the House does not want to create a new school voucher program and makes it less likely that a similar provision will be inserted in the Senate version of the bill.”